Contribution of Admiral Murtala H. Nyako (rtd.), Honorary Adviser to the President on Agriculture & Executive Governor Adamawa State at the 3-Day Symposium on Current Economic, Social and Security Challenges Facing Northern Nigeria, in Washington DC, USA Organised by US Institute of Peace – March 17-19, 2014
First, I should like to sincerely thank the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in support and collaboration with the Governments of Norway and Denmark for hosting this 3-Day Symposium on current economic, social and Security challenges in Northern Nigeria. I should also like to believe that this is being done because of the realisation that Northern Nigeria is facing daunting challenges in these sectors and you have resolved to help the region out of its difficulties.
The region lies in the Sahel belt of West Africa and is inhabited by a large number of tribal/ethnic groups, the biggest being the Fulani, Hausa, Kanuri, Yoruba and Tiv who have demographic linkages far beyond the region. It became a British protectorate in the Year 1900 and had since remained virtually peaceful until the early 1990s when signs of rapid deterioration of the social and economic life of the people in the region began to manifest. We could now all see the squalor around us – the growing number of young people out of school and without skills; the increasing number of the poor and hungry people around us, the increasing number of the unemployable and the un-employed among the youths and even grown-ups and other negative indicators too many to be mentioned here; all of it very scary stuff. It is, therefore, no wonder that there is presently heightened insecurity not only in Northern Nigeria, but the whole country.
Today, the level of armed robbery in the South-West of the country is such that most Banks do not observe regular hours of doing business; it is piracy and lawlessness on continual and massive scale by delinquent militants in the South-South; it is kidnapping for ransom at an alarming degree in the South-East of the country; and of course there is the series of atrocities by the so-called Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. It is lawlessness all over the place.
The initial assumption was that Boko Haram was religiously motivated. Nobody now associates the group with any religion; their targets have largely been within the Muslim communities. What, therefore, are the motivating factors of the so-called Boko Haram? We must answer this question correctly to enable us determine what type of war we are fighting. The Boko Haram itself has not helped matters since it has never come out by its actions to define what type of war it is fighting; it has bombed facilities of the United Nations and those of all and sundry; it has destroyed churches and mosques and targeted and killed a large number of Muslims and Christians irrespective of the ethnicity of their victims. It is therefore most unfortunate that inspite of professional advice to the Presidency including two Memos submitted by my humble self (hereby attached) it does not seem to know what it is facing and the type of war it should be fighting; is it a war against terrorists, insurgents or as people are coming to believe a nurtured war against the people in Northern Nigeria? In short, is the massive killing of people and destruction of property and the environment state-sponsored?
Let’s face it ! Neither the Federal Government, nor the Nigerian Military has ever linked those few persons paraded as Boko Haram suspects with any of their strategic commanders or sponsors ! The locations of Boko Haram camps such as those at Sambisa Game Reserve which are said to be well established and stocked are known by all traditional Defence and Security units in the North-East, but we hear about them from the authority only on selective basis !
We now notice a new trend; the random destruction of life and property in the style of Boko Haram in the North-East and the illegal carting away of herdsmen’s cattle now take place in all the States of Northern Nigeria and is being adjudged by the public as deliberately aimed at bringing conflict amongst the ethnic groups and between Muslims and Christians of the region.
Sponsors of Mass Killings and Destruction of Property
Let me request this gathering to note that the arms, ammunition and explosives being used by so-called Boko Haram are not manufactured in Nigeria. Somebody must have brought them from abroad to the scenes of attacks. With military check-points mounted everywhere in far greater numbers than we had during our civil war and with only the President, the Vice President and their key staff and Governors of the States on one hand and the Nigerian Military on the other who pass these points unchecked, we could safely assume that it is one of the two groups who conveys these weapons up country from the Port(s) after Custom and Security clearance. The security situation we are therefore facing in Northern Nigeria today could be sponsored, financed and supported by evil minded and over-ambitious leaders of Government and the society for political gains. There is simply no person(s) in the North-Eastern zone rich enough to foot the financial and logistic bills on Boko Haram activities. Somebody outside the zone must have bought these arms, ammunitions and explosives somewhere which is easily traceable, paid the freight charges to Nigeria, cleared them at the Ports, conveyed them up-country through numerous check-points and put them in safe-houses in the States ready to be used by the appointed killers. Also, somebody must have deliberately substantially increased illegal drug traffic in the North. Today a youth in the village might not see drug against his headache, but there would be all sorts of illegal and dangerous drugs available for him to purchase! Who are the barons behind all this?
Identification of the Strategic Commanders of the Illicit So-Called Boko Haram Operations
But most importantly, who are the Strategic Commanders of these illicit and murderous operations against innocent citizenry including women and children? It is now clear to all and sundry that there is an unhindered coordination between the activities of Boko Haram cells and some strategic commanders sitting in some high offices in our national Defence system. How else could there be such timely actions regarding the immediate withdrawal of the Military near vital positions such as schools and colleges with the immediate arrival of Boko Haram squad of murderers. Not only are these withdrawals of the Military and the attacks of Boko Haram timely, it is noticed that such attacks would last for hours without counter response by the Military even if they are located at a hearing distance. We have had cases where a fleet of Airforce aircraft was being burnt by Boko Haram near a unit of the Military, yet the latter did not respond. We have had a case when a retired General and a civil-war hero was being shot to death by allegedly Boko Haram attackers in front of soldiers detailed to protect the area, yet there was no response from them. There are numerous other revelations which time would not allow me to narrate. I should however add that virtually all the regular Military units in the area are poorly equipped; they have arms without ammunitions and are poorly fed and quartered inspite of the trillions of Naira said to be spent on them by Abuja. In contrast members of the Abuja-nurtured Task Force being deployed in the areas are better equipped and cared for perhaps to guarantee that they rain enough havoc on the communities whose domains they are deployed.
Clearly these Strategic commanders are waging a war of Terror (‘making’ a statement to influence an outcome) as well as adopting Insurgency tactics of using terror to achieve a political end against Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram is therefore being viewed as a tool by some evil-minded conspirators to kill key Traditional and political leaders of Northern Nigeria and to cause the disintegration of Nigeria. The people in the North have also begun to suspect that the Objective of all this is to create enough mayhem for an excuse to deny them their democratic right of Vote by cancelling the forthcoming General Elections in the region and also reduce the Voting power of the people there now and in the future through mass killings of its populace especially its youths.
Who give the ‘Orders-to-Kill’ the Innocent?
The real big question in all this is who have been giving the ‘Orders to Kill’ the victims of all the Boko Haram atrocities and those who have been targeted but saved by the Almighty God? There have been attempted assassinations of a number of States’ Governors including my good-self and the Governor of Benue State; a number of top Traditional Leaders of the North including the Shehu of Borno and the Emir of Kano, our Senators and top Business people have also been attacked in broad daylight and escaped death by the skin of their teeth ! Who had given the executive ‘Orders’ to kill us? Is Northern Nigeria facing another demonic Agenda similar to that which wiped away its Political and Military Leaders and killed a number from the Western Region in January, 1966? The Presidency should give us answers to all the foregoing serious questions and we do not want insults by aides in response or harassment by detailed Security operatives ! We want the ANSWERS; Nigeria also wants the ANSWERS; the international community too should want the ANSWERS.
Let me briefly touch on a few other factors that induce and promote Insecurity in Northern Nigeria and indeed Nigeria namely Corruption and Mismanagement of public affairs nourished by impunity and lawlessness on the part of senior leaders in Government and the ruling political Party as revealed in President Obasanjo’s letters/write-ups and the observations by the outgoing Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria on missing billions of dollars of public funds. The responses of those who should clear the air show how far they could go to falsify record. Their impunity and lawlessness have become legendry ! They think they could cajole us to believe that 16 is greater than 19 and 5 is greater than 27. Their emasculation of the Judicial system is also unprecedented. In the security situation we now find ourselves we in the North are already not free from danger, injury or death emanating from executive ‘Orders’ of the evil-few in Abuja; the wise amongst us now ‘sleep with one eye open’, the wisest do so ‘with both eyes widely open’! How could we trust those that we suspect are behind all this?
Who can now trust and do business with these leaders? No wonder the international community and those that could be our business partners are staying away from Northern Nigeria and the rest of the country. My State’s U.S. technical partners who are to upgrade Kiri irrigation dam in my State (Adamawa) to Hydro-power-generation facility on Built-Operate-and-Transfer (B.O.T.) basis had to abandon the site when an unwarranted ‘State of Emergency’ was lumped on the State by Abuja. The case of Okomu LNG project speaks volumes on this ! On the political front, we in the North had stuck out our necks to support their political ambition, but they have now turned round and are attempting to burn us alive. No decent man should do business with this lot ! Lawlessness galore !
Distinguished organisers of this timely Symposium, whilst once more thanking you for it, it is clear from the foregoing that Northern Nigeria and indeed Nigeria need your understanding and support.
Thank you & God bless!